The Power of a Handwritten Note

Image courtesy of istockphoto/AnthiaCumming

What do you get for someone who has everything?

You may naturally think that as the CEO of a book company that I am going to suggest giving a book.  Well, that’s always a great idea, but I have found something that I think is even better, even cheaper, and even more enduring.

What is it?

A handwritten note.

When Books Fly: Lessons from Lessmore

One of the most creative, and inspiring short films I have ever seen is “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”  I’ve seen teenagers cry and toddlers mesmerized when watching this fifteen-minute film.  Adults barely contain their sense of wonder.

There are so many messages from this short film to consider.  If I were an English professor, I would assign this film as an essay question just to see what students would write.  What makes it so powerful is not only the emotion it evokes, but also the different lessons everyone takes away.

Here are a few:

Shifting Gears: Ann Patchett from Writing to Selling

Avid readers know the name Ann Patchett.  Her work—from Bel Canto to State of Wonder as well as many other books—has won numerous accolades and awards, and she regularly tops the New York Times bestseller list.

When Nashville recently lost its bookstores, Ann decided to do something about it.  She opened Parnassus Books, an independent store, with partner Karen Hayes.  I was there for its grand opening and watched the crowds swarm in to celebrate the return of a local bookstore.   The excitement over Parnassus quickly spread beyond the city’s borders—in fact, a bestselling author opening a bookstore landed Ann not on the book page, but on the front page, of the New York Times.

Ann recently gave an inspiring keynote address for booksellers in New Orleans.  I sat down with her to talk about her success as a writer and her new career as a bookseller.

Ree Drummond: A Pioneer in Every Sense of the Word

Photo courtesy Ree Drummond

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive: hugely popular blogger and winner of the Weblog of the Year Award in 2009 and 2010, New York Times bestselling author, Food Network star, one of Forbes’ Top 25 Web Celebrities—and to think it all began several years ago when she decided to start a blog to keep her mother updated on family and life.

She has a new cookbook—her second called The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier—coming March 13.  I recently asked her questions ranging from her recipe taste testing to the phenomenal success of her blog.

OPE: No Greater Leverage

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/E_Y_E

If you study financial success books on investments, you will likely come across the terminology “OPM.”  It stands for other people’s money.  The idea is to start with nothing, but use other people’s money to become fabulously wealthy.  Widely used in the real estate world, this concept of financial leverage and OPM is often hyped on infomercials.

How does it work?

You want to buy a rental property, but you don’t have the money.  You put down a small amount and finance the rest from the bank.  Let’s say you buy a house for $100,000, but you only put down $5,000.  When the price goes up to $150,000 and you sell the house, in addition to the rental income you earned, you pocket $50,000.  In simple terms, the magic of OPM is that you made $50,000, but you only used $5,000 of your own money (if anything at all!).  That’s an extraordinary return on your investment.  Obviously, given the housing downturn, many people are realizing that the $100,000 home doesn’t necessarily become $150,000 and could end up at $50,000.  That has been a painful lesson to many, but the OPM concept is still a valid approach.

My entire life has been spent studying a different type of leverage—one leveraging not other people’s money, but something much more valuable.  And its value is always there and cannot go down.  In fact, the more it is used, the more it goes up in value.

What is it?